A new resource for engaging community members in brownfield redevelopment

OPTIONs Workbook coverDo you know the ten smart growth principles by heart? Me neither, but there’s one I never forget: Encourage Community and Stakeholder Collaboration in Development Decisions.

Engaging community members in decisions about where, what, when and how to invest, build, and preserve is what makes smart growth smart. As basic as this principle is, though, it is not always easy to do. There is a learning curve for everyone involved in the development process and this is particularly true for brownfield sites—properties that are or are suspected to be contaminated by hazardous materials. Brownfields are some of the most complicated redevelopment projects and the more people and official processes that are involved in the process, the steeper the learning curve.

That’s why Smart Growth America is happy to release a new tool designed to help communities organize for effective public outreach. The Organizing to Promote Targeted Improvements in Our Neighborhoods (OPTIONs) Community Engagement Workbook is a series of seven worksheets with instructions designed to help community groups think about how to organize, what they need, and how to build a strategy to participate in the redevelopment process. Community groups can use these tools on their own, but they can be just as useful for local governments seeking working with partners in federally- and state-mandated community engagement programs.

The Workbook originated as a companion to a much more detailed workbook for municipalities dealing with assessing and managing risks associated with brownfield sites. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Underground Storage Tanks, spurred on by extraordinary partnerships in Florida that were resulting in new clinics and other community-oriented facilities on former petroleum brownfields, observed the need for a simpler version of the tool to help people understand the redevelopment process and advocate for their community’s needs. The OPTIONs Workbook fills this role and is a great tool for any type of redevelopment project, brownfield or otherwise.

We’ll be presenting the Workbook this afternoon as part of the Brownfields 2013 national conference, and if you are in Atlanta for the conference we’d be more than happy to talk with you about it. This resource is built to last, though. Anyone involved in brownfields redevelopment can use this workbook to better connect with and gain support from community members.

Download the workbook

OPTIONs: A Community Engagement Workbook (PDF)
The worksheets in this guide will help you think through the information you need, the people you need to know, and the questions you need to answer to support and even lead
redevelopment efforts.

Want an example of how to use this resource? Download sample completed worksheets from two different projects:

  1. Sample response from community group pursuing recreation and open space on two large sites. (PDF)
  2. Sample responses from community participating in an areawide redevelopment plan. (PDF)